Silences, Identity, and a 'Remaking of the Self': Exploring Social Media Narratives by Rape Survivors
Winnie's research examines the uses of social media by rape survivors to narrate their experiences of sexual trauma – and how this online engagement can serve as a means of individual recovery and community-building. In recent years, a proliferation of online spaces have created new communicative sites where rape survivors share their individual stories, either anonymously or with their identities fully or partly revealed. She researches how and why survivors choose to participate in these online narrations of a trauma which is traditionally associated with shame and stigma. Winnie will collect data from two sites: 1) Interviews with 20 rape survivors across the UK who engage on some level with these online narratives; 2) Online platforms – through a multimodal analysis of selected websites and online content. This research is situated within her ongoing work as a writer, activist, and survivor of a stranger rape — a personal background which informs her understanding of the sensitivities at hand. If previous studies have noted a problematic lack of survivor-informed scholarship (Gilfus 1999; Wasco 2003), Winnie's research aims to fill that gap.
Supervisor: Dr Shani Orgad
Before coming to the LSE, Winnie worked for fifteen years in the creative industries in the US, the UK, Ireland, Qatar, and Singapore. A Harvard graduate who earned her BA in Folklore and Mythology, Winnie was selected as a George Mitchell Scholar in 1999 and studied at the National University of Ireland, Cork for an MA in English, specialising in Gender and Sexuality in Irish Writing. After volunteering at the Cork Film Festival, Winnie became an independent film producer in London, working on six feature films and attending the Oscars for a nominated short film. Then in 2008, when she was twenty-nine, her career was disrupted by a violent stranger rape in a park in Belfast. This prompted a long period of recovery, followed by a change of career. After stints in programming for the Doha Tribeca Film Festival and ecotourism design in Singapore, Winnie ultimately returned to London in 2013 to write her novel Dark Chapter and pursue an MA in Creative and Life Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London. In the process, she decided to focus on addressing the issue of sexual assault through the media, the arts, and academia.
Currently, Winnie is a PhD researcher in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics, researching the uses of social media by rape survivors to share their experiences. She is funded by an ESRC DTC Fellowship. In 2015, she launched Clear Lines, the UK’s first-ever festival dedicated to addressing sexual assault through the arts and discussion. She is also working with On Road Media on their Angles project to improve UK media coverage of sexual abuse. As a result of her activist work on this issue, Winnie has been shortlisted for the Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize 2015, the Asian Women of Achievement Awards 2016 in the Social and Humanitarian category, and the Irish Tatler Women of the Year Awards 2017 in a Special Recognition Category. She has spoken at many places including the Women of the World Festival at the South Bank Centre, Harvard University, Trinity College Dublin, RADA, and multiple literary and activist events.
As a writer, Winnie has written across a range of media, including theatre, fiction, journalism, travel guides and memoir. Her debut novel Dark Chapter, inspired by her own experience of rape, was published worldwide in 2017. It was listed by Stylist Magazine as one of ‘10 Smashing Debut Novels of 2017’ and won The Guardian's Not The Booker Prize, decided in part by a public vote. In its unpublished stage, it has been awarded 2nd Place for the SI Leeds Literary Prize 2016, Highly Commended for the CWA Debut Dagger 2015, and shortlisted for the Pat Kavanagh Prize 2015. Her short-form essays and articles have appeared in outlets including The Times, The Independent, The Mail on Sunday, The Huffington Post, and TIME. She has a significant, ongoing engagement with the media on the topic of sexual assault. Interviews with her have appeared across TV, radio, and print on the BBC World News, Channel 4 News, Channel 5 News, UTV News, BBC Radio, RTE Radio One, The Guardian, The Irish Times, The Belfast Telegraph, The Irish News, Cosmopolitan magazine, The Daily Mail, and other outlets. She is also one of four survivors who form the subject of the 2-part TV3 Ireland documentary Unbreakable: True Lives, which aired in September 2017, and sparked a public debate about rape in Ireland.